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African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, females constitute 14% of juveniles in residential placement in 2011. Of these females, 61% belong to racial minority groups. The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides additional information about the demographics of the juvenile justice system. Juveniles in Residential Placement Residential placement refers to any facility in which an adolescent remains on-site 24 hours a day. These facilities include detention centers, group homes, shelters, correctional facilities, or reform schools. According to census data of Juveniles in residential placement and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of youths in juvenile detention centers in the United States has declined in the past two decades. The number of adolescents incarcerated peaked in 1995, with 107,637 in confinement in a single day. In contrast, there were fewer than 62,000 adolescents in residential placement in October 2011. Juvenile offenders are placed either in public facilities operated by the State or local government, or private, for-profit facilities operated by separate corporations and organizations. Private facilities are smaller than public facilities. Half of all juvenile placement facilities in the US are privately operated, and these facilities hold nearly one-third of juvenile offenders. Since 1997, 44 states and the District of Columbia have experienced a decrease in incarceration of adolescents. As of 2010, only 1 in 4 juveniles in confinement were incarcerated as a result of a violent crime (homicide, robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault). Additionally, 40% of juvenile delinquency cases and detentions are a result of offenses that are not considered threats to public safety. These include underage possession of alcohol, truancy, drug possession, low-level property offenses, and probation violations. The most common age of offenders was 17 years old, with 17,500 in placement in 2011. Juveniles aged 12 and under accounted for 1% of all youth in placement. Criticisms The current debate on juvenile justice reform in the United States focuses on the root of racial and economic discrepancies in the incarcerated youth population. The school to prison pipeline has been described as one mechanism that targets young people in schools and funnels them into the juvenile justice system. Zero tolerance policies in schools have increased the numbers of young people facing detention. Low-income youth, youth of color and youth with learning and cognitive disabilities are overrepresented in the justice system and disproportionately targeted by zero tolerance policies. Much of the criticism about the American juvenile justice system revolves around its effectiveness in rehabilitating juvenile delinquents. Research on juvenile incarceration and prosecution indicates that criminal activity is influenced by positive and negative life Page 22 of 114

transitions regarding the completion of education, entering the workforce, and marrying and beginning families. According to certain developmental theories, adolescents who are involved in the court system are more likely to experience disruption in their life transitions, leading them to engage in delinquent behavior as adults. Lois M. Davis et al. argue that adolescents are affected by a juvenile system that does not have effective public policies. Currently the juvenile system has failed to ensure that all youth in the system with learning disabilities or mental health issues, and from lowerclass individuals and racial minorities are provided with the benefits for a productive life once out of the system. In 2013 30% of youth in system have a learning disability and nearly 50% test below grade level. They argue that the juvenile justice system should be restructured to more effectively lower the chances of future crime among youth, and advocate for increased educational programs for incarcerated youth as the most important method to reduce recidivism. A 2015 report from The Council of State Governments Justice Center showed only 13 states provide incarcerated youth with the same educational services as the general student population in the United States. The report recommended juvenile detention facilities should be held to the same academic standards as other public schools. Page 23 of 114

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